Margaret Stead, 84, of Calverley, Leeds, founded Breast Cancer Research Action Group in 1994 and the charity, which is composed entirely of volunteers, raised £7,500 in a few months to help furnish a new breast unit after canvassing support from health bosses, the public and MPs.
Mrs Stead was invited to unveil the Unit at Leeds General Infirmary in April 1995 and the facilities have since been relocated to St James’s University Hospital.
The mother of three and grandparent to two was determined for the facilities to be set up having been cared for herself on a mixed sex ward in February 1994.
She said she was “absolutely gobsmacked” by the BEM, adding: “I’m really proud of what we have achieved. We have helped so many women in Leeds and the surrounding areas.
“I was nursed on a mixed sex ward and thought it was dreadful and I said to my surgeon that when I got out I was going to campaign for a breast cancer unit.
“I still had my stitches in after the operation when I started a petition and got signatures from people at church and the golf club, and got in touch with MPs. After 18 months of hard work I was invited to officially open the breast unit at LGI.
“It’s now an absolutely super set up. There is a ward and mammography and out-patients all together as a unit. It’s fabulous what we have now.”
When it opened, the breast unit was described by the Minister of State to the Cabinet Office as “a trailblazer for others to follow” and was awarded the Government’s Charter Mark in 1999.
Breast Cancer Research Action Group has raised £2m since it started and so far has supported the salaries of three research registrars and established the post of research nurse which made it possible for patients to be given full explanations on the research and to be recruited into clinical trials.
The charity has also funded a research scientist and a research technician.
Mrs Stead, who during a 32-year nursing career worked as a district nurse in the Leeds area before stepping into management and becoming an assistant director nursing, praised a number of people for helping to make the charity a success including her personal assistant Anne Leng and surgeons Eddie Benson and Kieran Horgan.